Dreaming of an overseas move can be so exciting that it is often hard to focus on the dreary matter of money – but some smart decisions and simple planning could save you thousands.

Dreaming of an overseas move can be so exciting that it is often hard to focus on the dreary matter of money – but a few smart decisions and some simple planning could save you thousands.

Before you go
Before you do anything, think about how much it is going to cost to disentangle yourself from your current financial obligations. Do you need to exit a mobile phone or cable TV contract, cancel direct debits, wriggle out of a gym membership or defer a magazine subscription? Add up those costs and set them aside in the “never-seeing-that-money-again” column of your budget.

Next, take a long, hard look at your belongings. Now is the perfect opportunity to shed unwanted gifts and ill-conceived purchases; you do not want to be carting them across the world and paying for the privilege. Shipping the contents of an average two- or three-bedroom home from the London, England, to Toronto, Canada, will cost in the order of £4,500 – so taking less will have a very tangible impact on your budget. Also remember that moving costs will depend on whether you choose sea freight, air freight or ground transportation. A useful resource to find and compare movers worldwide is Intlmovers.

While you are in clear-out mode, consider some key facts about your new abode. What is the weather like there? Do you really need your winter woollies? Similarly, what is the electrical system of your new country and will it support your existing appliances? If you know the actual house you are moving into, get a copy of the floor plan – with dimensions – so you can see which pieces of your furniture will or will not fit.

How much is a cup of coffee or a beer in your new country? Find the answer to that question at global price comparison site wopri.com, and you will have a decent gauge to start building the needed day-to-day budget.

Money matters
Your first big challenge will be getting a visa. Even if you are being sponsored by a company or an individual, you could be liable for the cost of an immigration lawyer. These can be expensive; in the US, expect to pay upwards of $5,000 in attorney’s fees for visa processing, and the cost of the visa itself usually ranges from $200 to $400.

The next priority is to get your finances in order. You will need a bank account in your new country and you will probably want to hang onto your existing one, too. But you might find it difficult to set up a new account until you have suitable personal identification in your new destination (such as a job or rental contract or social security number in the US), so make sure you have a decent credit card with zero foreign transaction fees to get you through the first few weeks.  Alternatively, speak to your current bank about setting up an international account. Most of the big banks offer these, and they allow you to access your money wherever and whenever you need it.

A little more complicated is the issue of transferring money to your new home. The more money involved, the greater the issue, since money transfers are subject to the vagaries of currency fluctuation. Forget about foreign exchange bureaus unless you are talking about small change – the exchange rates are poor. Your bank will likely give you a better rate, but beware transfer costs and commission fees. If you are transferring anything over £5,000, look for a deal that exempts you from fees.

Small amounts of money can be transferred via PayPal, which does not require a minimum transfer amount, although transactions do incur a charge, currently set at 3.9%. For transferring money to or from the UK, Moneysupermarket.com lists the best transfer companies and deals. Also be aware that there may be a “receiving fee” from your new financial institution.

For serious money, your concern will be less with transfer fees and more with exchange rates. In this case, it makes sense to use a foreign exchange broker or understand the detail yourself by using a comparison site such as FX Compared.

If you have more advanced financial needs, such as managing an investment portfolio or an ongoing requirement to pay tax in dual locations, seek out the services of a financial planner for bespoke advice.

Moving costs
Whether you are planning to rent or buy your home, consider employing the services of a professional who can advise you on the neighbourhoods that best meet your needs and can also research properties, advise on rental or property values, attend inspections, submit applications or bid at auctions on your behalf. Some relocation companies will do everything, from moving the cat to finding a nanny to redirecting your mail. Try NYC Navigator, London Relocation or Resettlement Services Australia, although most major cities have companies with similar services.

If you are planning to rent, your initial outlay is likely to be a security deposit and at least one month’s rent. However, in more competitive rental markets (such as New York City or Melbourne) you might need to budget more, especially if you do not have any local references.

The cost of buying property will be highly dependent on the destination, but nonetheless you should budget for the usual additional expenses involved, including legal fees, taxes and insurance. If you need a mortgage to finance your purchase, seek out the services of an overseas mortgage advisor such as Homesgofast.com, which can help you re-mortgage your current home, take out a new loan in your current country or borrow abroad.

As well as buying new furniture, you will also need to budget for utilities – gas, water, electricity and phone, as well as cable TV and wireless internet. And do not forget about car, home and health insurance. Some countries have much better public health systems than others and it is important to understand what is on offer in order to make the right provisions for you and your family. An excellent resource is the World Health Organization’s World Health Report 2000 which ranks the world’s health systems on five key criteria relating to services. Top of the list? France. Bottom of the list? Burma.

Parents will likely have schooling high on their list of priorities. Consider whether or not education is free – in most places this will not be a problem, although there are surprising inconsistencies in what free education means.

Germany, for instance, provides free education to children for their entire schooling period, while Switzerland offers eight years of elementary education. Also consider whether the education on offer is of a standard that meets your expectations. If not, and depending on the location, you might want to consider international schooling, which provides mother tongue (usually English) education for foreign nationals based on an international curriculum. Families with younger children should research the options for pre-school and childcare, and factor these into the budget.

When you get there
When the wheels have finally touched down on your tarmac of choice, it is time to start re-establishing some of the things you dismantled earlier. Doubtless you will still want the gym membership and magazine subscription. And since you will be in a new place you might want to set aside a bit of cash for social activities, perhaps joining a group or attending a course.

Finally, set aside an “exploration budget”, which will allow you free, unfettered access to your wallet for a few days while you orient yourself in your new place of residence and see what it has to offer.